Adakonis go-karts his way to top national ranking

A few years ago, Justin Adakonis was invited to a friend’s birthday party at On Track Karting in Brookfield. It was the first time he ever drove a go-kart.

“I was eight years old,” said Adakonis, who lives in Ridgefield with his family. “I remember that I was very bad but loved racing so much that I wanted to pursue it and I wanted to be good a it.”

He is now real good.

At 12 years old, Adakonis is among the top junior go-kart racers in the world. He is ranked first nationally and fifth internationally in the Sodi World Series point standings and is one of 40 drivers (the only American) who will compete in the 2018 Sodi World Series Finals in Venice, Italy, this June.

“My goal would be to get a top-10 [finish] or win,” said Adakonis about his outlook for the world series. “I know this will be hard because these drivers are some of the best in the world.”

Adakonis’s improvement over the last four years has been fueled by his passion for go-kart racing. After attending camps and clinics, he began competing in indoor racing leagues at On Track Karting. He also works there on Saturday nights, calibrating and testing karts.

“He treats it very professionally,” said his dad, Neil. “He’s sort of become a mentor to some of the younger kids.”

“A good racer has to have quick reflexes in order to make decisions fast,” said Justin. “I think my quick reflexes and eagerness to learn have helped me progress through the past four years.”

Adakonis put together a sensational 2017 season. Competing primarily in indoor races, he had top-three finishes at 32 of 36 events, including 15 victories and nine second-place finishes.

In the final race of the spring season at On Kart Racing, Adakonis clinched the league championship.

“I was one point off the championship and the third-place driver was one point behind me,” said Adakonis. “All I had to do was finish in front of the first-place driver and I would win the championship. I had a great qualifier and started on [the] pole [position]. My kart had great speed the whole race and I ended up winning the race and the championship.”

Adakonis also fared well when he raced outdoors at the Monticello (N.Y.) Motor Club, finishing first in a 90-minute race and posting the fastest lap as part of a team competing in a six-hour endurance event.

This spring he will transition to outdoor karting, racing for the PSL Northeast team in the Northeast Super Series and the Oakland Valley Race Park Club Championship at Oakland Valley Race Park in Cuddebackville, N.Y.

“My first season in outdoor racing, I just want to finish every race and have a good run for a top 15 in points,” said Adakonis. “In indoor racing, the cars are slower and you can bump a lot more.  In outdoor racing, everyone knows how to back out of bad moves and make clean passes. In indoor racing, drivers tend to be rough and wreck people. They also will bump you out of the way to get the position.

“When I’m competing in a race, I don’t really think of anything … I just race,” added Adakonis. “I know this will change when I go to outdoor racing because I will have to think of my engine temperature, tires and strategy.”

To prepare for the outdoor season, Adakonis and his dad have been building a go-kart. In the past, Adakonis has rented karts for indoor races.

“You get a box of parts with a chassis,” said Neil Adakonis. “I don’t know a thing about racing, so it’s a little bit of a challenge for me, but it’s just about together now.”

While those finishing touches are being applied, Justin Adakonis is already thinking ahead.

“Eventually, I want to race open-wheel cars, like F1 (Formula One) or IndyCar,” he said. “If I don’t get there I want to race sports cars in the WEC (World Endurance Championship) or IMSA (International Motor Series Association) series, or race cars in NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing).”

If so, Neil Adakonis can relax. Someone else will put those cars together.